WINNIPEG -- A six-game home stand comes to an end tonight for the Winnipeg Jets (22-25-3) when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.
So far the Jets are 1-4-0 during this stretch at MTS Centre, and while it hasn’t gone the way the team wanted it to, head coach Paul Maurice says a win tonight would go a long way toward putting a good feeling back in the room.
“It’s such an important part of this time of year. We’ve had a tough stretch here at home, we have some people back in our line-up now,” said Maurice. “Real important to get that positive feeling. You get into that stretch so you can handle some of the losses that are happening with every team that we’re that we’re fighting for. We’re all kind of going through the same thing.”
The Jets can lean on this season’s success against the Eastern Conference. In 19 games, Winnipeg is 11-6-2 against the East, and 7-4-0 against the Metropolitan Division.
But it won’t be an easy two points tonight. Carolina (23-21-8) is in a wildcard race in the East, currently sitting four points back of New Jersey for the final playoff spot.
“They’re a better team than what they probably get credit for. Part of it is what happened to them last year. They just got devastated by injuries, especially with (Jordan) Staal’s injury, and had a real tough season,” Maurice said of the Hurricanes, who dropped a 4-1 decision to Calgary on Tuesday. “(Eric) Staal and (Jordan) Staal down the middle on any team, that’s a powerful centre ice. They have some nice speed and nice skill.”
Speed and skill is a good way to describe the Jets, who generated a number of offensive chances in a 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. But three goals against in the second period, including two in a span of 2:11 put the Jets behind.
“The key for us is we’re trying to find some of that offensive confidence with the volume of chances we’ve had, not forcing those plays like we did for a block of time in the Dallas game,” said Maurice. “You have to generate enough offence, but have the confidence not to try and force plays.”
“I think for a lot of the recent games we’ve played, we’ve played a lot of really good hockey. It’s just a matter of some little things to clean up in a game, and trying to come out with that 60-minute effort every game,” said defenceman Tyler Myers. “It’s building off some of the things we’re doing well and just cleaning up some of the things that will ultimately get us over the hump.”
One of the areas Mark Stuart wants to help clean up is the team’s penalty kill, which sits 27th in the NHL.
“I take a lot of pride in the penalty kill,” said Stuart. “I’m definitely not going to see any power play time. So it’s kind of something I really take to heart. It’s something that I always like to be in the top in.
“We’re doing some good things, it just seems like the pucks are finding their way in. I think we’ve been better. I don’t think the numbers really show it, or where we are in the standings as far as PK goes, but we have been better in the last month.”
Following the game, the Jets will hop on a plane to Colorado to play the Avalanche Saturday night. It’s the beginning of a stretch that sees Winnipeg play eight of their next ten games away from MTS Centre.
All the more reason to get the good feeling back in the room tonight.
“We just want to come out with a good start. We’ve been focusing on our special teams the last couple of days,” said Myers. “We’ve had a good couple days of practice here to clean things up.”
“(It’s a) big important game here tonight,” Maurice said. “But as a starting point for a lot of road games this month. It’s going to be an exciting game. There’s going to be an awful lot of speed in this one.”
Puck drop is 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com